Series of protests against hydropower plants in Valbona

Bajram Curri, Tirana, New York, April 11, 2016, hundreds of citizens of Bajram Curri, together with supporters from all over Albania gathered at the Museum, in front of the statue of Bajram Curri, to protest against the construction of 14 hydropower plants on the Valbona River. This is the first public act of a campaign launched by citizens, supported by national and international NGOs, to protest against the destruction of one of the most beautiful natural areas, as well as one of the most visited tourist destinations in Albania. .

Nine of the 14 hydropower plants built along 20 km of the Valbona River lie within the Valbona National Park, an IUCN Level II protected area since 1996 and a key point of the Albanian Alps National Park, which will be declared this year , thus creating one of the largest protected areas in the entire Balkans.

During the protest in the city of Bajram Curri. (c) B. Guri/EcoAlbania
During the parallel protest in Tirana, at the Prime Minister’s Office. (c) EDEN Centre

Citizens are against this plan for three important reasons:

1) Environmentally, these plans would destroy the area, because they would put the river and its streams inside some 2.5-3 m diameter pipes. This would not only cause great and irreparable damage to the river, but would also destroy the lands around it.

2) In economic terms, turning one of the most untouched areas in Europe into an industrial zone would destroy the developed tourism sector. The flow of the river, at a speed of about 3 m/sec during most of the year, cannot generate enough energy, the sale of which could compensate for the lost income from the destroyed tourism. All this will not help the country’s economy in any way. Building dams will not bring more employment and never economic benefits.

3) There is public anger about how these projects have ignored or bypassed the Albanian law, not consulting with the citizens and instead the companies present a list of 12-20 forged or obtained signatures from employees and relatives of the companies involved in this project. The assessments carried out show that the studies on the biodiversity of the area are not deep, thus ignoring the status of the Protected Area. The fact that these documents, which are not based on any examination, are accepted by the relevant agencies as true is a scandal on a national scale and calls into question the competences of the governing bodies. Although the management plan for the Alps National Park has been prepared, which would clarify the fact that the area is protected by law, its approval has been blocked by the Ministry of Energy.

We request the government of Albania to stop the construction of these hydropower plants in Valbona and to invest more in the development of tourism and agriculture in the area.

The protest in Bajram Curri and the protest in Tirana aim to draw public attention to this situation, to spread as much information as possible and to increase public awareness.

A petition addressed to the local institutions will be signed by the protesters.

During this time, since it was learned about the plans of these projects in January 2016, concerned citizens, together with national and international NGOs, rushed to collect documentation, thus realizing an official Administrative Appeal.

At the same time, a group of activists from New York protested against the construction of hydropower plants in Valbona, asking Prime Minister Edi Rama to save Valbona from this threat.

During the protest in New York. (c) EcoAlbania


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